The latest tumultuous season for Texas ended on a positive note.
To cap off a season full of underwhelming performances, disappointing losses and coaching rumors, the No. 20 Longhorns knocked off Colorado in the Alamo Bowl 55-23 to finish the year with a 7-3 record.
The game could prove to be somewhat of a passing of the torch for Tom Herman’s program. Sam Ehlinger has started at quarterback for nearly every game of Herman’s four years at Texas. Though he has the option to return in 2021, Tuesday night’s game was the final outing of Ehlinger’s senior year. Unfortunately, it ended prematurely.
Ehlinger completed 10-of-16 throws for 160 yards and a touchdown, helping the Longhorns take a 17-10 lead at halftime. But he didn’t come back out from the locker room for the third quarter and was ruled out with a shoulder injury. He later returned to the sideline with his right arm in a sling. And if this was indeed his final game in a UT uniform, Ehlinger finishes No. 2 in program history in passing yards (11,336), touchdowns (94) and completions (923).
With Ehlinger sidelined, backup Casey Thompson filled in admirably. Thompson, a sophomore, completed eight of his 10 throws for 170 yards and four touchdowns. But it wasn’t Thompson who shined the brightest among Texas’ young core. It was freshman running back Bijan Robinson.
Robinson, on the heels of 223 all-purpose yards in the regular season finale vs. Kansas State, was the best player on the field against Colorado. In the first quarter alone, Robinson reeled off runs of 27 and 50 yards, scored on an eight-yard run and caught a 14-yard touchdown pass.
On the first play of the second half, Robinson exploded through the line for a 66-yard gain to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to Joshua Moore. Robinson later scored his third touchdown on a throwback screen from Thompson that went for 23 yards and increased Texas’ lead to 41-16.
In the end, Robinson finished with 183 yards and a touchdown on just 10 rushes along with two catches for 37 yards and two more scores. Moore, another underclassman, led the receiving group with five catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
Fourth straight bowl win under Tom Herman
With the win, Texas is now 4-0 in bowl games under Herman. The Longhorns beat Missouri in the Texas Bowl in 2017, infamously beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in 2018, and beat Utah in last year’s Alamo Bowl.
Each time, the bowl win generated a level of hype entering the offseason and the subsequent season. Herman’s teams have never quite lived up to that hype, though.
After the Sugar Bowl win (you know, the one where Ehlinger said Texas is “back”), UT followed it up by going 8-5 in 2019. It was a disappointing year, but the blowout bowl win over Utah played a part in getting people’s hopes up for the program entering 2020.
Again, UT fell short of expectations. The Longhorns started the year 2-2, including another loss to Oklahoma in the Red River game. Later in the year, the Longhorns’ Big 12 title game hopes were still alive — until they blew a late lead in a loss to Iowa State.
That was a game that turned the intensity up on Herman’s hot seat. The school’s pursuit of Urban Meyer was no secret, but Meyer wasn’t interested and UT athletic director Chris Del Conte eventually issued a half-hearted vote of confidence in which he said simply that Herman “is our coach.”
So the show will roll on into 2021 with Herman at the head. The hot seat talk won’t subside, either. And with the way guys like Robinson and Thompson performed against Colorado, the usual Texas hype machine should be alive and well once again throughout the offseason. Will it be warranted? If past seasons are any indication, it’s unlikely.
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